No matter how many more wins they earn this season, Eagle River's Post 28 American Legion baseball team already knows they'll emerge from the campaign with something perhaps more valuable than a league title.
A former Legion doormat, the Wolves have posted some impressive results this season, perhaps none more so than their eye-popping 14-4 thrashing of perennial power Dimond at Chad Bax Field in South Anchorage on June 19.
"We're really happy with the way we played," said assistant coach Rick Ayala.
Like a number of teams who have been surprised by the Wolves this season, Ayala said the Lynx seemed shocked to find themselves on the wrong end of an Eagle River rout. Although the Lynx started the game out with plenty to say from the opposing dugout, that didn't last long as Eagle River opened up an 8-3 lead early in the game.
"You could feel the air in that balloon go out of them," Ayala said.
Brandon Metzel pitched five and a third innings to pick up the win, and David Fuller got the final two outs to seal the victory.
Eagle River improved to 5-6 on the season heading into a weeklong break in the regular season due to the Bill Lierman Sr. College Coaches Camp that was held June 20-23 in Anchorage.
Ayala said Eagle River tore the cover off the ball against Dimond. When asked who hit the ball well, Ayala asked with a question of his own.
"Who didn't?" he said.
Greg Long went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, Kyle Frost had a three-run double and Colby LeBlanc drew five walks.
"We were very disciplined at the plate," Ayala said.
The win enabled the Wolves to bounce back from a pair of losses the previous day to Fairbanks, which picked up an 8-3 win in the first game of a doubleheader and won the second game by the mercy rule.
"I don't know if it was nerves or what, but the bats died off," in the second game, Ayala said.
Ayala said that the losses show that the team still has a lot of work left to do. But at this point in the season, he said the coaching staff couldn't be happier with the squad's ability to go head-to-head with anyone.
"To come back against Dimond and play the way we did was very encouraging," Ayala said.
The Wolves are back in action again on June 26, when they'll travel to Kenai for a doubleheader against the Post 20 Twins. The Wolves also have a rematch against Dimond set for June 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Loretta French Field in Chugiak.
Ayala said a handful of Wolves players participated in the college camp at Mulcahy, while the rest of the team has been taking cuts in the batting cage. The best part of having a midseason break, he said, is it gives the team's pitching staff a bit of a group vacation.
"This week really gives the pitchers a chance to rest," he said.
Mustangs back in action Saturday
Chugiak's Post 33 squad returns from 12 days without a game on June 25 when the Mustangs take on Dimond at 1 p.m. at Kosinski No. 4 in Anchorage. The Mustangs enter the game with the Lynx with a 5-5 record this season.
Chugiak also plays at Wasilla on June 27 at McManus Field at 6:30 p.m. and against West on June 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Oberg Field in Peters Creek.
This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, June 23, 2011.